"You and Me"
Orihime often wondered how she found herself in these positions.
At first, she thought it was coincidence, running into the tall Espada so many times throughout her short stay here in Las Noches. Perhaps she was seeing him just as often as any other Arrancar; it was just his bright hair and alternately subdued and explosive personality that stuck out in her memory so well.
Then, one day, she found him outside her room.
Orihime's cell was at the end of a narrow corridor, white like the rest of the building and empty of any other rooms. It was how the two Hollow girls cornered her so easily; she had nowhere to run.
She shuddered at the painful memory.
She had not seen the girls again since that last incident, and it was only that thought that made her somewhat grateful that it was Grimmjow at her door right now.
"Um... Can I help you?"
He was slouching, hands in his pockets as he casually avoided eye contact. Orihime hid herself halfway behind the ajar door, instinct telling her not to reveal herself completely to the predator before her.
It helped little, for without a word and with hardly an effort Grimmjow strolled past her and made his way into the room. Orihime's nerves began fraying as she backed up, unable to overcome the Espada's firm push at the door as he easily shouldered his way in.
She stood near the doorway in choked silence as the man, blasé as ever, made a slow circle around her tiny quarters. His gaze passed over the sofa-like sleeping surface, her chamber pot in the far corner, and finally rested on the bars covering her window, a sliver of perpetual moonlight filtering through. Orihime wrung her fingers and fidgeted, then jumped when he suddenly spoke.
"I still owe you for my arm," he said simply, his low baritone filling the small space. It was loud in the otherwise perfectly silent room. Orihime froze, then blinked once, slowly. She answered after a moment.
"It... It was nothing, really."
Grimmjow turned from the window to finally face the girl, a sneer raising the side of his upper lip opposite his jawbone fragment. Orihime saw a flash of straight white teeth.
"Bullshit. You did that for me, now I owe you something in return. That's how this works, sweetheart," he said condescendingly as he shifted his footing.
Orihime's mouth was dry as she thought of what to say to that. What was he implying? She had no illusions about this place or its inhabitants; certainly he was not actually simply here to repay a debt. Her voice trembled as she asked a question, her mouth taking off before her brain could catch up. "What exactly did you have in mind?"
Orihime felt a flush pass over her cheeks as his sneer was replaced with the flash of a smirk, the corners of his lips twitching and his eyes glittering in response to her wording. She had seen enough movies in her lifetime to know how suggestive that statement could be between a man and a woman in a space like this. She mentally chastised herself, but stood tall nevertheless as she awaited his response.
The man before her was tall and handsome and terrifying, she reminded herself firmly as she forced the recall of gruesome memories. There was little she could do to forget the vision of his newly restored hand going through that one former Espada’s stomach like he was nothing more than a pile of laundry. He may not have been forcing her to the ground with violence like Loly and Menoly had, but she was not about to let her guard down for a moment just because he hadn’t done something terrible to her yet.
His slight mirth disappeared quickly as he turned to face her fully, a dark and scrutinizing look covering his face as he considered the girl before him. Grimmjow had not neared much, but Orihime felt as if he was towering over her. She felt inches tall as she played with the ends of her long auburn hair, suddenly unable to meet his intense gaze. It was very awkward.
"What are you doing here?" he asked her abruptly.
Orihime was confused. Her eyes darted to his of their own volition before they retreated back down to the floor. "Eh?" That was the question she was supposed to ask him. "This... This is my room..."
The Espada scoffed at her response and impatiently reworded his question. "Here, as in Las Noches. Hueco Mundo." One hand slipped out of his pocket to gesture with a wave all around them. "Why the hell are you here?"
Orihime was at a total loss. Didn't Aizen explain the answer to that question to all his Espada the day she arrived and healed Grimmjow's arm? She suddenly questioned his mental capacity.
"Aizen had me brought here. Don't you remember?" she added tentatively, wondering how fragile his faculties were.
Grimmjow rolled his eyes, and she could feel the irritation rolling off of him in waves. Did she answer incorrectly? "To hell with his reasons," he clarified. Orihime frowned. "What are yours?" he hissed.
She did not understand at all.
"Grimmjow," she said, testing his name carefully on her tongue, "Ulquiorra kidnapped me under Aizen's orders," she explained slowly. "I don't have a choice in this whole matter."
The silence that followed was heavy. The man's eyes narrowed, and she felt the weight of his judgment. Her skin tingled with an embarrassment akin to shame; she wondered how he could possibly have the right to make her feel such pressure. He spoke lowly next, his words like spears through her heart planting the first seeds of doubt.
"You're full of shit, aren't you?" Orihime squashed the initial bubble of affront and indignation that festered immediately upon his accusation. Who did this man think he was?
"What do you mean?" she asked tentatively, confused beyond a doubt.
He took a short step toward her as he began speaking again, slowly closing the distance between them and sending Orihime's survival instincts in a scramble for purchase.
"You have no plan for escape, do you? I'll bet the thought hasn't even crossed your mind." Orihime jarred at the accusation.
He was right.
"You're just sitting here in your little cell, wandering around this compound during your 'daytime' hours like a pretty little ghost, waiting for someone to come rescue you." She was about to offer a retort, but was cut short. "And don't tell me you're not waiting for rescue. Are you really so pathetic that you would just let yourself be used against your own friends by the very villain behind every major mess you dumbfucks have gotten yourselves into?"
Her mouth snapped shut at that. Again, he was right.
Initially, she had left with Ulquiorra to save her friends from the rock and the hard place that the Fourth Espada had placed her in. She had witnessed - and painfully felt - the overwhelming brutality that the nihilistic Arrancar commanded, and she knew her friends were unprepared for the threat he posed.
Now, though, she was reminded of the purposelessness she felt following the beating she received at the hands of the two Arrancar girls. What was she doing here? How was she helping her friends anymore? Ulquiorra loved reminding her during his daily visits just how futile everything was. It made the meals he delivered particularly difficult to swallow.
The answer was, she wasn't.
Her bottom lip trembled, but she refused to let the blue-haired Hollow before her witness the extent of her distress. Then she felt her indignation from earlier resurface at the Espada. She spoke quietly, voice hardly above a whisper as she looked down at his feet and hugged herself.
"Is this how you're thinking to repay me for your arm? By reminding me how useless I am to my friends?" She struggled not to cry, her personal fears and failures finally brought up by another person for the first time and given the credence she always avoided. "I already know how weak I am, Grimmjow. If I was strong, I wouldn't have been kidnapped in the first place. I could have fought back and protected my friends without becoming the liability that I am now."
Her roiling emotions stirred with her spoken admission. Saying it aloud made it so much worse. She was shocked, then, when his laughter rumbled through the room.
"You really are a dumb twit, aren't you?" She looked up at him in shock, meeting his electric blue gaze and humorless smile. "Do I really have to spell this out for you?"
Orihime was confused.
"I know he showed you the Hougyoku."
She didn't answer his statement, unsure if he truly knew or if he was baiting the answer out if her. Was he perhaps spying for Aizen? She highly doubted it, but stranger things had happened in this awful place.
He went on, uncaring that she did not readily admit to his accusation.
"If it were to be destroyed, he would lose all influence in this world."
The statement by Grimmjow was followed by more silence.
Orihime's eyes were wide in shock. Grimmjow's revelation was no different than what she'd suspected when she laid eyes upon the powerful device days ago in Aizen's chambers. To hear one of his minions outright tell her this, though, was astonishing. What was going on here?
"What are you trying to get at?" she asked suspiciously. She watched as Grimmjow looked down his nose at her, blue eyes glowing strangely in the faint light of her dark room as he sucked his teeth silently behind his closed lips. She imagined he would be the type of man to always have a toothpick in his mouth were he of the living. Maybe he’d even use it to pick at the teeth in his mask?
Orihime shook her head furiously at the momentary distraction. This Arrancar clearly had an agenda, and that warranted her undivided attention.
"Aizen doesn't belong here," he spoke up suddenly. Orihime was dumbstruck by the admission. "Hollows were never meant to be at the beck and call of a Shinigami. It's just unnatural."
Her pulse raced.
"He has no place here, and he has no place on my throne."
Orihime started to interject, somewhat dazed by these rolling admissions. "Your...?" she began, wondering since when Grimmjow felt Aizen was a usurper and how many other Hollows might be in agreement.
"My throne," he growled in response, closing in on the girl before him. She flinched as his face neared, inches from her throat as she cringed away and scrunched her eyes shut. Her knuckles were white as she gripped the door behind her. His next words whispered coolly over her ear, sending shivers up and down her spine.
"That bastard is sitting on what was to be my throne, and I want it to end.
"And you. You want to save your friends, don't you?" Orihime's eyes shot open. Reactively, she turned to face him with wide eyes, and her cheek accidentally brushed against his thanks to his extreme proximity. He smelled clean. He backed away only far enough to leave a negligible space between their noses, but he continued to keep his volume low.
"They will come to try to rescue you, you know. And when they do, they will fail. They will fall like flies to Aizen's army, because they don't have the mettle it takes to survive the brutality that lies ahead of them." She would have slapped him, but he continued immediately. "Don't you want to do something about that?"
Orihime gaped, waiting for the answer that she knew was forthcoming, regardless of her response. His eyes bore into her own, and she could not look away.
"In battle, your advantage increases exponentially when you can mount your attack from multiple fronts. If Aizen is distracted by the army he knows is coming, then we suddenly have the element of surprise when we destroy the source of his power from the inside."
The tactics seemed sound enough, but the whole scenario was making her head spin.
"Why are you telling me all of this?"
His eyes grew unreadable as he slowly backed out of her personal boundaries.
"The enemy of my enemy may still be my enemy, but you are definitely the lesser of two evils. That, and I can destroy you in a heartbeat if this doesn't work. That Shinigami bastard has proven a little harder for me to take care of, hence the reason we are here to begin with."
He was positively chatty tonight.
"So," she began tentatively in an effort at clarification. She needed to speak up before this conversation got completely out of her control. She feared it may be too late for that, anyway. "You want me to destroy the Hougyoku to help you overcome Aizen somehow," she simplified. "How am I supposed to do that?"
Grimmjow raised his hand to his face and scratched at his jaw with a single finger. "Think about it, chick. As much as you're making me believe it right now, I know you're not stupid." Orihime pouted, her feathers ruffled.
"I can reject it, sure, maybe. But how could we ever get to that point?" Grimmjow made a low noise, and the young woman realized that he was nearing the end of his patience. It was almost animalistic.
"Are you in on this, or do I have to kill you for knowing too much?" he asked impatiently. Orihime gulped.
"I- I think I'm on the same page, it's just that... This is a lot to take in right now," she looked up at him imploringly. "Up until fifteen minutes ago, you were just another one of them. I'm... I'm still having trouble absorbing that this is coming out of your mouth right now." He outright growled at her this time and took a menacing step forward again.
"I am nothing like them, and you remember that, you little bitch," he said with an unexpected fire. She was a taken aback at his change in tone and shrunk in fear.
She took a moment to examine him wholly. His posture was rigid. His arms were crossed over his chest, and the veins in his forearms were popping out with a tension she hadn't noticed at first. His feet were spread shoulder width apart beneath the billows of his hakama, his black boots peeking out from underneath. His teeth were clenched, and his brow had crashed down in an epic furrow.
Suddenly, Orihime did not mistrust him as much as before.
"I'll help you," she said breathlessly.
Grimmjow's frown lessened just a fraction as he studied her face closely. The corners of his mouth had eased from their fierce downward turn as his eyes seemed to bare her very soul. Seconds passed. He nodded once firmly as he came to his conclusion.
"Good."Then he angled himself with a pivot of his foot and walked out the door, leaving Orihime to wonder what new devil she had just made a deal with.